The Art of Confessing (Part 3 of 3)

The Art of Confessing

by Fr Henri-Charles Chery O.P.

(Part 3 of 3)


In this way, we are not likely to forget, as already mentioned several times, that in the sacrament of penance, the main merit comes from the purifying blood of Christ, not from the exhortation of the confessor, and this purification is obtained through our sorrow.

This truth affects the way in which you should bring your faults to the tribunal of confession: you should know that that it’s not just a matter of giving an account of your sins, but of truly being sorry for them.

However, every priest who hears confessions, is struck by the kind of indifference, or at least apparent indifference, with which many penitents state their faults.  They render an account of them, they make a list: and provided it’s accurately done, then it seems to them that they have done all that the Church requires of them.  All that is now needed is to receive absolution, and away they go, liberated from now on.  The formality is over and done with.

Now actually, it’s nothing of the sort.  Nothing is ‘formality’ when it comes to acts of religion – neither the Mass, which is not just a matter of our attendance, but requires our active participation, nor confession, which is essentially a sorrow for our sins, a renunciation of the evil we have done, in order to obtain forgiveness. It’s about love – a matter of the heart (that is to say of the will).  We come to admit that we have done wrong, that we have failed in the love we owe God by refusing to do His will in one way or another (His will that we should be faithful, or just, or pure, or loving, etc.).   That should come across in the way we confess our sins.

‘Confiteor…., ‘ is the formula which is recommended you say before confessing your sins: ‘I confess’, I admit, I’m sorry, it’s my fault, I am guilty, I beat my breast.  Your confession should be in line with this formula.  It’s not a matter of seeing that you’ve done wrong and bringing this observation to the priest’s attention, it’s about conveying real regret for having done wrong.

It would therefore be good (and this will be easy if we confess a limited number of sins) to repeat before confessing each fault, ‘I confess to….’.  Provided your heart is in it, this will prevent the dry indifference of those who merely recount their faults, instead of truly repenting of them.

A QUESTION: Should one confess sins from the past that have already been forgiven in previous confessions?

1) As an exercise in humility, if it doesn’t cause any turmoil or unease to your conscience, it can be good to acknowledge your guilt one more time for an old sin already absolved.  And not only as an exercise in humility;

2) but also for the grace of purification that the sacrament will bring in a special way, to the particular source of infection from which the sin originated, and which perhaps is not yet completely cleansed.

SIMILARLY, it can be good, at certain solemn times of life (before marriage, the religious life, during a retreat, etc.) to make what is called a “general confession”, bringing to it either the past year or a longer period.  But on one condition: that this is not done just for convention’s sake, but from a need;  not from being told, ‘It’s the thing to do’ – but rather because you feel interiorly drawn to doing it.  (This point is particularly relevant to confessions made during retreats.)

However, there are those who should refrain from delving back into the past: the scrupulous.  The scrupulous suffer from an illness, and their illness takes the specific form of an anxiety which makes them incapable of judging whether they’ve done something wrong or not; whether they’ve done this action well or badly.  They would like ‘to be sure’ and yet the more they seek this certitude, the more it escapes them.

In the confessional they want to be sure of having said absolutely everything, or of really having true contrition, and, never being sure, they repeat things indefinitely.  All this exhausting soul-searching aggravates their illness under the guise of soothing it.

There is only one way for them to be cured and that is to obey the confessor without any argument or discussion.  He will order them to completely shut their eyes on all the past, recent and far off.


AN OBJECTION: One form of anxiety that is experienced, not only by the scrupulous, but also by the honest or sincere, has to do with the quality of their contrition, and it is expressed in this way: ‘What’s the use of confessing this sin?  I surely can’t be repentant since I know I’ll fall into it again.’

We are now talking about firm purpose of amendment.

But let us carefully distinguish between ‘predicting that we’ll sin again’ and ‘wanting to sin again.’

* Undoubtedly, the penitent who wants to sin again, who has the intention of repeating his fault at the first opportunity, is not really a penitent.  He has no contrition at all.  He is abusing the sacrament and is also under the false illusion that absolution from a sin can be obtained without the repentance of the sinner.

* But this is not, thanks be to God, the usual case.  Most penitents have a keen awareness of their weakness justified by past experience of relapses.  They believe they know that their good intention, when put to the test one more time, will not be any more effective than it was in the past.  And they conclude: ‘I do not have true contrition’.

They are wrong.  Deep down, they call ‘evil’ the evil they have done.  They really wish they hadn’t done it.  They wish they were capable of never doing it again.

But that is contrition!

God does not require, in order to forgive us, that we be sure of never sinning again!  (That kind of certitude would strongly resemble presumption).

He asks us to have the intention of doing what we can, with the promised support of his grace, to avoid sinning again.  Do we have this intention?  Then we don’t have to worry about being hypocritical or insincere.  Our gloomy predictions do not change our intention.

All the more so since they are based on a blameworthy mistrust of the grace of the sacrament.  If the sacrament of penance is a means of making progress, it is not so much achieved by the psychological effort it requires of us: it’s because it applies to our sick soul the medicine of the saving and meritorious blood of Jesus Christ.

Jesus grants us the pardon He obtained for our benefit by his Passion, but He also gives us the graces of cleansing and strength to support us in future struggles, particularly in the area of the sins we have brought to Him for absolution.  It is in these graces we should put our trust, not in the doubtful capacities for resistance of our good will.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow.  For tomorrow, tomorrow’s grace will be enough, provided that you keep trusting and praying.  For today you have today’s grace, the grace of contrition.  Wanting to imagine tomorrow’s temptations, is to want to carry a burden for which you have no help.  It’s not surprising then that it seems too heavy and overwhelms you in advance.

To say this is not, however, an invitation to heedlessness.  Confession should be finished with a resolution.  The carrying out of this resolution we entrust to God’s help, but we must also be willing to work at it.

The most efficient way of doing this is to make that resolution precise, dealing with one sin that we want to avoid, not on all the faults confessed, nor even, as a general rule, on several.

And better still, to try to anticipate, going by past experience, the circumstances which might lead us into a fall – those occasions, which, if we place ourselves into them, may sweep us along into sin again.  Let us make a resolution to avoid these occasions.

For instance, if we know:

— that this particular company drags us into malicious gossip;

— that that kind of reading turn our thoughts towards impurity;

— that this open drawer brings to mind old, barely dormant, grudges;

— that this kind of conversation gets us all worked up1.

The resolution will be:

— to flee from this type of company;

— to forbid ourselves this kind of reading;

— to keep that drawer closed, and to avoid this particular kind of conversation.

To act like this, is to realistically accept ourselves as we truly are, capable of falling where someone else would be strong in resisting.  In this way we avoid presumptuously ‘tempting God’, by laying ourselves open to temptation; it’s therefore being logical with our contrition.

Why not, from time to time, safeguard your resolution by putting it to the confessor at the end of your confession?  That will certainly help you to keep to it.

When done in this way, confession will no longer be the tedious repetition of ‘standard’ sins, which it only too often becomes, and which is sheer drudgery.  It will become one of the most powerful means of sanctification that the Church puts at our disposal.  In going to the tribunal of confession, we will be conscious of going to Christ on the Cross, who holds, in his crucified hands, the forgiveness He has obtained for our benefit; the blood with which he wants to cleanse us.

Conscious of our poverty, all the more so if we have taken a good, clear look at our daily weaknesses, and trusting in His mercy, having begged him to make us detest our sins, we will enter through the door of the confessional with the humble disposition of the prodigal child:

‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am not worthy of being called your son.’

Because of that, we will be able to go away with renewed strength, founded on the liberating assurance:

‘Go in peace, my son, your faith has saved you.’

The Art of Confessing (Part 2 of 3)

The Art of Confessing

by Fr Henri-Charles Chery O.P.

(Part 2 of 3)


Accusation of sins

Here I am next to the confessional, beginning my examination of conscience.  Which sins am I going to confess?

The question obviously needs to be addressed, because I can’t confess every single fault.  ‘The just man sins seven times a day’, Scripture says, and I, who am not just, how many sins slip my mind each day?  To be completely comprehensive, counting up every single possible sin is an unrealistic dream – and not even useful or helpful.  I need to choose. But what do I choose?

Obviously, first of all – all the mortal sins.

To deliberately omit confessing a mortal sin, even if you confess others that are just as serious, would be to render the confession invalid and sacrilegious.  That act by which we deliberately turned away from God, our last end (which is just like saying to him quite consciously, that we could not care less about disobeying him in a serious matter – as long as we can satisfy this or that disordered tendency) how could we come back to grace with God without renouncing it and therefore confessing itWe cannot, at the same time, be both a friend of God and hostile to him.

The difficulty for some of us is knowing when there is mortal sin:

* in theory, everyone knows it: serious matter, full knowledge, and full consent;

* but in practice, we often ask ourselves:

1)  Was the matter really a serious one?

2) And even more commonly: Did I really fully consent?

For the first question, it’s easy enough to ask the confessor’s advice.

As for the second, so long as the question is being asked in all honesty and in good conscience, and if you are really not absolutely sure, the rule is, there was not full consent.

Is this to say that there is no need to confess this ‘doubtful’ sin, or rather, this doubtfully committed sin?  Certainly not!  Because of the uncertainty, one may be permitted to approach the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and, strictly speaking, you aren’t even obliged to confess this sin; but you’d be wrong, if you wish to make progress in the spiritual life, to hide behind this non-obligation to hold on to an uneasy conscience.

Practically, the rule is quite simple.  You are not required to say, ‘I confess to having committed a mortal sin’, but rather, ‘I confess to having committed this sin, to having done this act.’  You might add, if this is the case, ‘I do not know if I fully consented.’  Then everything is in order.  In any case, we are always able to reply according to our conscience if the confessor asks us, ‘Do you believe that acting in this way, you have grievously sinned?’

What are we to think of the formula, so dear to those who use it constantly and almost automatically, ‘I confess myself as guilty as God finds me guilty.’?

Although useful and legitimate when you are uncertain of the nature of your culpability, it seems to me to be too facile, and somewhat hypocritical, when you know very well where you stand.

On the other hand let it be said that we should not (as some souls tend to do) see ‘mortal sin’ everywhere.  A sin that merits, of itself alone, separation from God for all eternity and the pains of hell – we do not commit that kind of sin without our conscience being well aware of it.  If this conscience is in need of formation, you must ask your confessor to enlighten you and then go strictly by his direction.

This formation of conscience should have been done at a young age, yet listening to the confessions of children, we are astonished by their ability to believe that their little faults – mere peccadilloes – are mortal sins.  Is there not in that – let it be said in passing – a responsibility going back to educators, who do not know how to distinguish between their grumblings or scoldings and the true moral value of childish faults?  In any case, this problem of formation of conscience in children should be looked into carefully and individually by parents and regular confessors, as it is just as dangerous to leave children to believe in the seriousness of little faults as it is to leave them to commit, as though quite unconcerned, gravely reprehensible acts.

A scrupulous and anguished conscience in youth makes for a weak adult, withdrawn, without courage, or indirectly results in an adolescent suddenly and brutally ‘liberating’ himself from an unbearable constraint.

Whether mortal or not, one would do well to get into the habit of confessing first of all, right at the beginning, the faults that weigh most heavily on the conscience, instead of slipping them, as if inadvertently, in the middle of a long list of relatively unimportant sins.  In this way you can free yourself in one fell swoop from faults that you might otherwise end up not confessing at all by giving in to foolish fear.

I would like to pay particular attention here on:

1) the examination of conscience and,

2) the confessing of venial sins.  Is it not here that a great many regular penitents fall short?

What is the most common complaint made by those who confess frequently?  ‘Confession bores me, because I always have to say the same thing.’  Or else this other complaint which is directed at the confessor: ‘He doesn’t say anything to me.’ – meaning – nothing out of the ordinary, nothing which helps me to shake off my faults.

Now these two failings, which make confession psychologically tedious, have the same cause – you do not know how to confess your sins.

How do most penitents confess?  Some (admittedly the smaller number) forget that sin is an act, not a state.  And so they reveal (or think they’re revealing) the depths of their soul by saying, ‘I am a liar, I am bad-tempered, I am impatient.  This kind of talk is not what is required.  All it does is expose a tendency of your soul, but confession is not about exposing your tendencies.  It is about admitting to specific acts – which are no doubt the outcome of your tendencies – but as different from them as the fruit is from the tree.  One can very well have a tendency to lying and yet not have committed the sin of lying in the fortnight since the last confession.  If one has told a lie, one should say, ‘I lied’, not ‘I am a liar’.

This is in fact what most penitents do say: ‘I lied, I lacked charity, I was lazy, I was vain.’  This is a more correct way, but the confession is hardly any better, meaning, it is hardly any better for your soul.  And hardly any more likely to draw out useful advice from your confessor.  Why?  Because it is bland.  You haven’t had to put any real thought into it.  You haven’t clarified.  It doesn’t give the confessor any specific indication, any clue, which might enable him to see in what way your soul differs from that of the soul he has had to judge and advise before you.  For every ten penitents following each other, at least nine of them could present the same list.  And in fact, alas! they do so.

So why (unless he already knows you from somewhere else) do you expect your confessor to give you exactly the advice you need?  Nothing specific has been revealed to him by this confession.  He hasn’t been given anything to go on.  He would have to be a marvelous psychologist and amazingly intuitive to guess, from this rapid outpouring of common faults, one after the other, through this grille where he can’t even see your face, the words he should say to reach out to you, touch your heart and encourage you into making the effort which you personally should undertake.  We can’t ask every confessor to be the Cure of Ars.  Normally, he will only be able to give you back from what you have given him.

If, as it sometimes happens through excessive scrupulousness, the penitent launches into a long list that he wants to make meticulously all-inclusive, if he intends to say every single thing and churns out just about every venial sin that it’s possible to commit (which he has, no doubt committed) and all of this made at a speedy pace that sometimes lasts several minutes, there you will have a completely overwhelmed and swamped confessor.  Is there anything personal or distinctive in all this, he’ll be wondering in vain.  And, not finding anything, all he can do is give a general exhortation which isn’t all that helpful.  Whose fault is that?

First and foremost let us emphasize that venial sin is a matter of free choice in the confessional.  We are not obliged to confess it.

A well-made act of contrition, and act of charity, a faithful and humble use of a sacramental are enough to obtain pardon [of venial sins].

A confession that is made up only of venial sins is therefore not necessary for salvation, but rather a means of sanctification.  It is a recourse to a sacrament – to the cleansing Blood of Jesus – by which we are purified and strengthened.  It is also, secondarily, an exercise in humility founded on knowledge of self, and an admission of all that is impeding our spiritual progress.

Therefore we are free to choose which of our committed venial sins to confess.  Does this mean choosing the most insignificant and forgetting about those which trouble us?  No!  Not at all!   A well-made examination of conscience will pick out, from the pile of daily faults, those which, because of their frequency or because of their malice, are the most harmful to the life of the soul.

The physiognomy of my sinful soul is no more similar to that of another soul than my face is similar to another face.  Broadly speaking, we all commit more of less the same faults, just as we all have a nose, a mouth, ears… but the importance for me of this fault, the place it holds in my spiritual life, how it influences other faults, that is what makes up my sinner’s face.  That, therefore, is what an intelligent examination of conscience will serve to pick out and highlight.

It’s useless to gather up a multitude of sins.  Five or six, well chosen, will be enough to see yourself, to show yourself as you are before God.  But as for these sins (and this remark is without doubt the most practical of all) it is a question of bringing them out in their true colors!


*  ‘I lied’: that means nothing.   ‘Omnis homo mendax,’ says the psalm.  Every man is a liar.  In what way have I lied?  To whom?  In what circumstances?  Why?

‘I lied to a sick friend who was looking forward to my visit because going to see her bored me.’  Who cannot see that this is a specific kind of lie?   ‘I lied to my boss in order to obtain some holiday leave to which I had no right‘,   ‘I lied to a client about the quality of my work so I could charge him more’ – so many different types of lies!   Therefore to just confess, ‘I lied’, would not have given any true idea of what was involved.

* ‘To fail in charity’ – the most common sin.  Why use this totally bland, colorless expression?  Better to say, ‘I said some hurtful words to someone I do not like, with the intention of upsetting him.’ ,  ‘I showed contempt towards a friend who is not very intelligent.’, ‘I refused some help that I could have given to a friend in need’,  or  ‘I made fun of a disabled sick person….’

* There are a hundred ways of being vain. What is yours?  Is it spending far too much time in getting dressed up?  Is it looking in the mirror every other minute?  Do you show off whenever you are in a group, trying to grab all the attention by your brilliant conversation?

* And your laziness?  How does that reveal itself in you?  By your persistent habit of staying in bed when it’s time to get up?  By your careless, half-finished duties of state?  By your could-not-care-less attitude, or your excessive love of sofas?

From these few examples (which could so easily be multiplied) you can see what we mean when we say – confess specific acts, and the circumstances in which you committed them.  Try to find the words that best put across your fault such as it was in reality, as something that was specifically yours and not just anyone’s.  This will be of great benefit to you:

— Firstly, because it will force you to see yourself as you really are, and then, because it will be a healthy and profitable humiliation.  It is more humiliating to say, ‘I spent half an hour every day putting on make up,’ than to say, ‘I was vain’.

— And lastly, because from this clear and precise information, your confessor will be able to see the state of your soul, and from that will be able to give you appropriate advice.

Having said all that, you are not invited to long-winded chatting.  To confess with precision is not the same as ‘telling stories’.  The confession should not be drowned in a flood of descriptive accounts, narration, explanations and digressions, where the penitent forgets he is confessing sins and where the confessor grasps nothing apart from the fact that you are admitting to having been sinned against.  Sometimes we hear this so-called confession changing into self-justification, or at the very least, a speech for the defense.

If you need to unburden a heart that is too weighed down and heavy, and receive some consolation, or if you would like some advice about what you must do, nothing could be more legitimate.  But do clearly separate the two intentions.  First make a proper confession, keeping strictly to your faults, and then inform the confessor that you also have something else to say.

(To be continued)

The Art of Confessing (Part 1 of 3)

The Art of Confessing – PART ONE

by Fr Chery O.P.

THESE WORDS are not addressed to the “big sinners” who come before Christ to relieve themselves of a great burden. They are not even addressed to Catholics who are making their annual Easter confession. But these lessons may be helpful for those people who have the “habit” of weekly, bimonthly or monthly confession.

“Habit” is a colorless word if it signifies only a praiseworthy regularity; it is a cold word if it signifies routine.  And sadly, everyone knows that a praiseworthy regularity easily degenerates into something routine.

The majority of penitents lament the miserable banality of their confessions, the small amount of fruit derived, and sometimes even their little interest in the exhortation that the confessor addresses to them when they come to find him.  Some have disgust for it, confess only by custom, and finally end up spacing their recourse to the sacrament of penance in a way that is prejudicial to their spiritual progress.

This disgust, and its consequences, do these not come from those who do not know how to confess?  There is a manner, an “art,” that could make this regular exercise into a serious means of sanctification.

In writing these lines, we have particularly thought of the numerous young people who seek to live a true Christianity in a generous effort of sincerity.  Not yet habituated, they suffer from a horror of routines, and they reject formalities.  They are right.  But they need to know that formalism is introduced through the fault of the ‘users,’ and I dare say, that it depends on them to keep intact, or lose, their religious vitality, for want of a personal effort.

The rites are conveyors of life, but only to the living.

The use of confession, if it is well understood, can be a serious support for the development of the spiritual life.

But first, since we are going to speak of confession, and nothing but confession [accusation of sins], it is necessary to carefully note that this is not the whole sacrament of penance, that it is not even the principal element.  This principal element consists of a regret, an accusation, an absolution, a reparation.  The sacrament is constituted essentially by an absolution effacing the fault of a heart that repents.  If a penitent, on his deathbed for example, cannot [verbally] express his accusation, the sacrament can [still] take place [even] from this [unspoken] accusation; it cannot take place without regret.  God, for His part, can effect the sacrament (in the absence of any priest qualified to give it): (but) He cannot save a soul in spite of itself, or remit a sin that someone obstinately refuses to regret.

Such people for whom the essential seems to be their accusation will do well to remember it.  The priest exhorts them to contrition, to the means to be considered so as not to fall back into their fault, but once their accusation has been made they seem not to follow him, distracted as they are by the concern to enunciate such and such other sin that did not initially come to their lips.  If it were a matter of a serious fault, it would be normal not to withdraw before expressing it; but most often it is a matter of venial faults. One mainly worries about being complete; but it is necessary above all to be contrite.

Consequently, in the few moments usually spent preparing for confession, it will be good not to give everything to the examination of conscience, but even more to implore the grace of God, in order to obtain a sincere regret for one’s faults, and to express in advance one’s contrition and the intention not to fall again.

To whom am I going to address myself when I go to confession?

First response:  to a priest.  I am deliberately using this general term to emphasize that the primordial importance in the use of the sacrament of penance must be granted not to the qualities of the man who hears confessions, but to his quality as minister of Christ. Because we lack faith, we excessively attach ourselves to the human value of the confessor, a real, objective value, or a value that attributes to him our sympathy and our confidence.

Whether this is to be taken into consideration is undeniable, but from a point of view which is, so to speak, on the margins of the sacrament.

This comes into play for the counsel that will follow the accusation and precede absolution.  But the sacrament is not constituted by this counsel; it can even do without it.  The important thing is to deal with the Christ who holds forgiveness, with the living Christ acting in his Church.  Every priest who has received from the Church the powers to absolve you validly, acts in persona Christi, in the name of Christ.  He opens for your soul the spring of pardon – which is the Blood of the Redeemer Christ – and He washes it in this Blood.

Erroneous for lack of faith is therefore the attitude of such penitents who delay liberating themselves from a serious sin or who indefinitely delay a confession which would release them from a growing malaise (by purifying the infection that spreads little by little) because “their confessor” is not there. If they had an understanding of what the sacrament is – sovereignly valuable in its purifying work, independent of the quality of the confessor who is before all else the “minister of Christ,” that is to say, the ear of Christ to hear the admissions, the wisdom of Christ to judge, and the mouth of Christ to pronounce the remission – they would attach themselves less to the human appearances and not delay at all.

It is appropriate here to mention why I must admit my faults to a priest instead of contenting myself with an admission directly expressed to God in the intimacy of my heart.  This is because I am a member of the Church.

My fault has offended God and diminished myself: it is a lack of the love that I owe to my Creator and to the virtuous love that I must show for the child of God that I am.  And it also harmed the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. “Every soul that raises itself, raises the world.”  Likewise, every Christian who sins upsets the perfection of the Christian community.  The most obscure of sins causes a wound to the tree of which I am a branch.  Whether I detach myself from the tree completely by mortal sin, or whether I separate myself only a little, the entire tree suffers.  I rise from the Church in my vitality, for God has entrusted his graces to the Church for me.  I should, therefore, also rise to escape my fault.

In the early centuries this responsibility before the Church was more obvious, since accusation was public and professed before the entire community.  Presently, the discipline has softened, but it is always before the Church that I accuse myself – through the person of the priest who hears me, and the Church from which I receive reconciliation through the ministry of the priest who absolves me.

I thus confess to the priest because he is a priest.  This does not prevent me from choosing him as humanly capable of understanding and advising me. We are not speaking here, since it is not our aim, of that which is called (a little improperly perhaps) “direction.” Even while remaining strictly on the plane of confession, it is surely better for the progress of the soul if it usually addresses itself to the same confessor.  After some time (provided we have followed the advice we shall give later concerning the manner of accusing ourselves), he (the same confessor) knows whom he is dealing with.  He knows your tendencies and your habitual weaknesses.  Even if you have little to say, he knows what points should be insisted upon in his exhortations.  Little by little you have revealed the difficulties with which you are struggling:  your particular situation.  He does not risk, as would a stranger who does not understand you, perplexing you by an untimely remark.  At a difficult moment in your life, he can stop you from making a dangerous fall.  And at any time, he is able to suggest to you appropriate decisions to get out of your torpor if you let yourself fall asleep.

How should you choose him?

Above all, he needs good sense and right judgment.   Also, holy if this is possible – this is clear – but a balanced and insightful priest will always be preferable to another of a more fervent life with less sound judgment.

Do not forget that you seek a counselor, and that as is the wisdom of the counselor, so is the value of his advice.  But as he is also one who leads, you ought to desire that he be demanding.  A good-natured confessor who merely lulls you with soothing words or sends you away with absolution and a general exhortation, would risk leaving you to languish in your sin or your serious imperfections.

This is why it is necessary, if need be, to encourage the confessor to this beneficial requirement and to humbly accept his invitations to effort.  You will recall that the first condition for him to be useful to you is that you trust him.  You can have the best confessor in the city; but if you cannot open yourself up to him frankly, he can do nothing for you.  You should thus choose him so that you do not feel paralyzed in his presence and that you readily consider him as a father, perceptive, capable of realizing your situation and to interest himself in it, open to the realities of life, sure in his diagnoses, and of firm goodness in his counsel.

If you do not find him (one such ideal priest), do not be much distressed.  Go to a priest2: he has the grace of state.  The Holy Ghost will use him anyway for your best good, provided you are listening.

If you do find the ideal priest, do not easily switch from him.  While remaining fully free from another choice, do not let yourself be “undone” by a few impressions, all the more by some crushing of self-esteem or by some of his demands.  Persevere until you have positive proof that you are making no progress in his school, despite a loyal and constant effort on your part.

(To be continued)